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Monday, July 12, 2010

Fruit Leather

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One of the favorite snacks in our house is fruit leather.  I suppose the name doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it really is good. They are called roll-ups in the store, but ours are very different.  For one thing, they are thicker. Also, they have more flavor, having been made with fresh fruit and no fillers.  They are most definitely more nutritious too.

There are a lot of fruits that work well for leather.  Our favorites are apples, plums, apricots, and peaches, but lots of other fruits can be used. Also, fruits can be mixed together to create different varieties, or flavorings can be added.

Making leather is relatively simple. Wash the fruit, then cut it in half, and fill up a blender with it. Add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, and enough sugar or honey to taste. Blend well, until there are no lumps at all. Then spread out onto teflon sheets and put into the food dryer. It will take about 18-24 hours to dry. It will probably be a little sticky, but if it is very sticky, dry it a little longer. Length of dry time depends largely on how thickly the puree is spread onto the sheets. If it is too thick, it will take a long time to dry. However, if it is too thin, it will dry into brittle chips, not into leather. The best thickness is about 1/4 inch thick, but even this depends on how thick the puree is to start with.

If a dehydrator is not available, there are other ways to get it dried. One way is to cover cookie sheets with plastic wrap, folding it around the edges and taping it underneath, or using clothes pins on the sides. Then the sheets can be put in the oven on warm ( 120*), or in the sun, but they will have to be protected from insects and dirt. Try putting the cookie sheets in the back window of a car, with that
window facing the sun. It gets quite warm in there, and they should dry fast, but it might be good to let
the moist air out once in a while.

When the leather feels dry, peel it off the teflon sheet or plastic and turn it over. Let it dry upside down for another hour or two, just to be sure. Then it is ready to either be cut into strips and put into bags or jars, or rolled up in a fresh sheet of plastic wrap and then put into bags or jars. Glass gallon jars work well for storage.

Apple - For apple leather, the process is a little different.  It’s easiest for us to make it when we make applesauce. We cut the apples, cook them up, and put them through the Victorio Strainer. A blender can be used if the apples are peeled and cored first.  Then we add just a little bit of sugar, and it’s ready to spread out on the sheets.

Try sprinkling some cinnamon on the leather before drying, or mix it right in. Some people like to sprinkle jello on to add flavor and color, but to me it’s just more sugar, and it doesn’t go as fast as regular apple leather around here. Perhaps it would taste more like apple pie if cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are added.

Apricot - Use above directions. It has plenty of flavor all by itself, and even people that aren’t really fond of apricots seem to still like this.

Plum - Use above directions. This is the prettiest leather, because the skins make the leather somewhat speckled.

Peach - Use above directions. It’s lighter in color, very pretty. Be sure to add the lemon juice so it doesn’t brown, because then it would look very unappetizing.

After you have tried the basic leathers, try some other fruits such as bananas, cherries (makes a very sticky leather, harder to work with), pears and pineapple.  There are some fruits that don’t make good leathers due to their consistency or taste. Rhubarb is a little too sour, but might work well if blended with another fruit. I find that berries have lots of little seeds that interfere with the finished product. Watermelon isn’t good alone, nor is cantaloupe or other melons, but try mixing it with apples or some other fruit.

Here are some combinations to try:
Peach and plum
Apple and apricot
Apple and plum
Peach and pear
Cherry and apple
Cherry and peach
Strawberry rhubarb (2 c. strawberries and 1 c. rhubarb, can also add a little pineapple or orange peel)

Even if there isn’t a lot of a certain variety of fruit available, it doesn’t take a lot to make leather, and it
can be combined with other fruits, so don’t let anything go to waste! You just might find a new family

One of the best things about leather is that it is so portable. They go in lunch boxes, on trips, on picnics, and just for between meals snacking. If we send them with the children on field trips, we have to send a lot, because everyone in the class wants some.

So if you think your child won’t eat leather, think again! Your child may have tried some of ours!

By Donna Howard

56 East Main Street
Rexburg, ID 83440
Self-Reliance Emergency Preparedness
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